Following is a letter I wrote to a podiatrist before going to his office. I purposely put all the credentials at the top, to do an end run around one of those “pain in the ass patient” judgements. The day of the appointment, the doctor was amazingly responsive and caring and gentle. Details in a future post!
June 23, 2009
Dear Dr. R,
I run a company called Dancing with Pain (www.DancingWithPain.com), through which I write for mainstream and health-related periodicals (The Washington Post, Yoga Journal, Massage) about matters including the patient-doctor relationship in treating patients with chronic pain. I am sending a cover story I wrote for AARP magazine, about chronic pain and hypersensitivity, which I hope will be a helpful reference.
I myself live with chronic pain and hypersensitivity. I am coming for my first appointment with you tomorrow, to get a wart removed. I wanted to check in with you before I arrive, to let you know about a few things:
- I need you to be especially gentle when handling my foot, because I can end up in pain quite easily.
- I have had a couple of bad experiences with doctors handling my feet, so I have anxiety about this appointment, being that I have not worked with you before:
- Four years ago, I informed a podiatrist that I had hypersensitivity. He nonetheless grabbed my foot and pushed it back aggressively and without warning (demonstrating an exercise on my foot), and I ended up with intense pain and trouble walking for months after.
- Two years ago, I went in to a general practitioner for a simple wart removal. He asked me if I’d ever seen liquid nitrogen bubble around. I said no. He said it was quite amusing. I said that kind of thing doesn’t interest me. Without warning, he then dumped the entire cup of liquid nitrogen onto the examining table, between my legs, purportedly so that he could watch the bubbles dance around. I immediately felt a stinging sensation in my right eye, and I have had pain in that eye and headaches ever since (which I never had before).
- Because of the latter traumatic experience, I may choose to wear goggles at this appointment.
- I am giving you this information because it is key, as a measure of my self-care and comfort during the appointment, that you have this awareness and therefore make a point of being extra gentle with me. I request that you not ask me questions or make commentary on the experiences, but that you simply take note as background information for your own awareness.
Please confirm that you have received this note sometime before my appointment, and please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns.